MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – Clemson’s players lobbed oranges at their delirious fans, while coach Dabo Swinney lobbed a not-so-subtle jab at the Tigers’ in-state rival.
And in the middle of the celebration, Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins beamed after giving the Tigers a night to savor.
Boyd threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns, Watkins had a record-setting night with 16 catches for 227 yards on what likely was his collegiate finale and No. 12 Clemson rallied to beat No. 7 Ohio State 40-35 on Friday in the Orange Bowl, a game the Tigers lost by 37 points just two years ago.
“We are Orange Bowl champs again,” Swinney said. “Hey, listen: Two years ago we got our butts kicked on this field. And it has been a journey to get back. We’re 22-4 since that night. And we are the first team from the state of South Carolina to ever win a BCS game.”
Nope, beating the Buckeyes wasn’t enough.
Clemson had to make sure the rival Gamecocks took notice.
“That was a lot of fun, man,” Swinney said. “That was a lot of fun.”
It surely didn’t feel that fun after Boyd was intercepted with 1:27 left near midfield, with Ohio State needing a touchdown to take the lead. But Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller — who was shaken up in the fourth quarter, saying afterward he had a cracked rib and a shoulder issue — was picked off two plays later, and the Tigers ran out the clock.
Boyd’s 5-yard pass to Stanton Seckinger with 6:16 remaining put the Tigers (11-2) ahead to stay, despite allowing 20 unanswered points in wasting an early 11-point lead. Watkins caught two scoring passes, plus became Clemson’s career receptions leader and set an Orange Bowl record for yardage. Martavis Bryant caught two more TD passes for the Tigers, who posted consecutive 11-win seasons for the first time in school history.
“It’s a very special night,” said Boyd, who finished with 505 all-purpose yards, outgaining the Buckeyes by 78 yards himself.
“Just the significance of this game, not for me particularly, not for this team particularly, but for this university . . . I couldn’t pick a better way to go out as a senior.”